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Skilled Workforce: The way to achieve success

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By: Prof. Aditya Gupta

Remember the complete lockdown from March to May 2020. There were only two things that kept life going: a data-enabled internet connection and vegetables and groceries delivered through door collection.

The supply of essentials never went off. Behind this were thousands of unacknowledged logistics warriors who risked their lives, picked and packed at warehouses, transported the goods to nearby stores, and door delivered. From the driver of a truck to a picker in the warehouse to a supply chain manager in a company to the CEO of a logistics start up, there is a whole gamut of supply chain professionals who keep every nation functioning and humming.

Despite being such an essential and indispensable sector, logistics lacks organized skilling to the desired extent. During our MBA days, supply chain management was not even a subject offered.  It is now given as a subject; however, it is still an elective at the majority of MBA schools. The drivers are still being trained through driver-helper methodology. Warehousing is completely on-the-job learning. As per estimates, there are more than 2 crore people employed in the Indian logistics sector, making it the second largest employer sector after agriculture. Unfortunately, only a very small percentage of them are formally trained. Most of the others have acquired skills on the job.

Logistics skills have acquired attention, and progress has been made in the last decade in logistics skill building. The following is the current logistics skilling landscape in India:

Logistics Skill Council: The Logistics Sector Skill Council (LSC) was created as an industry apex body by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) and the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) with the endeavour to provide an end-to-end solution. LSC has identified 11 sub-sectors and is working towards training and employment generation in all of these sectors.

Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) Institutions: Under the PMKVY scheme, which was launched in 2015, various training institutions offer National Occupational Standard (NOS) aligned training programmes for different job roles in the logistics sector.

Apprenticeship-embedded Undergraduate Programmes: Under the initiative of the LSC, several higher education institutions are now offering apprenticeship-based B. A/B. Com degree programmes to integrate logistics skills into higher education with the aim of enhancing the employability skills of undergraduates to make them industry-ready.

Specialized Institutions: There are specialised institutions like the National Inland Navigation Institute (NINI) to develop human resources for inland water transport, the Zonal Railway Training Institute for railway locomotive drivers and the Tata Motors Driver Training Institute for long-distance road drivers, which provide skills for specialised job roles.

With the launch of the Gati Shakti project, India is attempting to leapfrog its transportation infrastructure to be among the best in the world. Projects like Dedicated freight Corridors, Bharatmala, Sagarmala are completely transforming the transportation landscape in India.

Collaborations between industry and academic institutions: The courses that are offered to students must be partnered by industry and academic institutions. The curriculum and the pedagogy should be so designed that the students are immediately employable after completing the course. The students entering would be assured of jobs, and industry would get a constant pool of trained manpower, creating a win-win for all.

Upskilling the workforce: The existing manpower in the logistics sector needs to be upskilled to meet the changing needs of the sector. Upskilling has the potential to provide large returns using small investments. In a warehouse, for example, existing workforce might be upskilled to better manage automation, safety requirements, WMS, and compliance, among other things.

Mandatory implementation of qualification: The majority of people who work in logistics today have no formal education in the field. It is necessary to make qualifications a pre-requisite for employment. Depending on the employment type, the qualification could be a certificate, diploma, or degree, but it should be made mandatory. This will encourage both employers and employees to earn the requisite qualifications prior to entering the industry.

Vernacular courses: Almost two-thirds of the workforce entering the logistics industry has received their education in a vernacular language. The ability to communicate in English is not required to perform logistics tasks. The logistics courses must be devised and delivered in many languages so that they can be adopted and skilled by a larger number of people.

Train the trainer: We need an apex trainer training institute that will train teachers for all logistics training institutes, similar to how RBI interacts with all banks. The trainer must have hands-on expertise in the industry and be continually updated on the latest developments in the field, as well as online teaching skills and teaching soft skills.

International Job Opportunities:  There are a large number of countries which are facing a shortage of trained manpower in the logistics sector. Forklift drivers from India find lots of employment in Middle Eastern countries. We need to train our students based on the international curriculum and tie up with global institutions so that India’s qualifications will be accepted world over and Indian students can find employment across the countries.

Training Equipment: Logistics skills are much more practical than theoretical. The training institutions need to carry simulators, driving tracks, build warehouse-like conditions, carry forklifts and other equipment that is required to train the manpower. Students will not be industry-ready if training equipment is not available.

The logistics sector carries the potential to create the maximum number of job opportunities in the coming years. It possesses the capability to employ a person of almost every qualification. The need is for the government, industry, and institutions to create a better skilling infrastructure to attract millennials and offer them a rewarding career in this sector.

(The author is a faculty member at IIM Bangalore)





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